Stephen Colbert will not face penalties from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for his explicit jokes about U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, engaging in oral sex, Variety reports.
CBS blurred Colbert’s mouth, and the controversial words used were bleeped out during airing, “The only thing [Trump’s] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s c*** holster.” The FCC’s response was dependent upon whether Colbert’s remarks were considered “obscene.”
According to the FCC, Colbert’s remarks did not rise to the level of obscenity or indecency to warrant any kind of sanction or fine.
The joke, or what many consider a rant, drew accusations of homophobia, spurred a viral #FireColbert campaign and elicited thousands of FCC complaints, which prompted the agency to open an investigation. Following the controversial remarks made by Colbert on television, an FCC spokesman provided a statement on the results of the review.
“Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints… The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC’s rules.”
In addition to this, CBS, Colbert’s network, stood behind his controversial comments and said the network is entitled to the “law’s safeguards for protected speech.”
“The Late Show, like all CBS news and entertainment programming, is entitled to the full force of the law’s safeguards for protected speech… The broadcast in question was not indecent, let alone obscene.”
The Parents Television Council (PTC) made a surprising statement in support of the FCC’s decision not to penalize Stephen Colbert. President of the PTC, Tim Winter, said other broadcast networks should look to CBS and adopt similar methods of muting profane language in live broadcasts.
“It was crude. It was indecent. But it was protected speech. The FCC’s decision not to sanction CBS for Stephen Colbert’s May 1st monologue on the Late Show was the proper outcome.
The Parent’s Television Council said the audio of the broadcast was muted and Colbert’s mouth was pixilated. The most important aspect to the FTC is that the broadcast aired after 10:00 pm, which is outside the reach of the FCC’s longstanding broadcast indecency enforcement oversight.
“We applaud the FCC’s decision on this matter, and we call on CBS and all broadcast networks to uniformly adopt a mute button and pixelation for live broadcasts during primetime hours as well. If we learned anything new from this incident, it’s that the networks can take protective measures if they so choose.”
Several days after the controversial broadcast, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, was asked about the remarks, and he assured the public that the FCC would conduct an investigation. Pai said that the FCC would “take the appropriate action” following a comprehensive investigation of Colbert’s remarks.
“We review all consumer complaints as a matter of standard practice and rely on the law to determine whether any action is warranted. The fact that a complaint is reviewed doesn’t speak one way or another as to whether it has any merit… I have had a chance to see the clip now and so, as we get complaints — and we’ve gotten a number of them.”
Pai explained to Fox Business Network, “We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action.”
The FCC can take action against broadcasters for airing something deemed obscene — However, the networks are given a bit more leeway for content aired between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Also, Colbert’s joke was bleeped out and his mouth was blurred.
Following the #FireColbert backlash, The Late Show host said he did not regret the joke.
“I would change a few words that were cruder than they need to be… I just want to say for the record, life is short and anyone who expresses their love for another person in their own way is, to me, an American hero. I think we can all agree on that. I hope even the President and I can agree on that. Nothing else. But, that.”
The Trump-Putin sex joke was in response to Colbert’s CBS colleague John Dickerson’s Face the Nation interview with President Trump, according to Fox Business. The interview was cut short after he repeatedly pressed President Trump on his wiretapping claims. Colbert noted, “Now, if you saw my monologue Monday, you know that I was a little upset at Donald Trump for insulting a friend of mine.”
Trump insisted that Colbert’s show was “dying” and was about to be taken off the air until he began his attacks. According to Fox News, CBS did have concerns about the show and named a new behind-the-scenes executive who has been in charge of its turnaround.
President Trump has also said in the past that when he was on Colbert’s show, “it was the highest ratings he ever had.”
Donald Trump’s visit to the show on September 22, 2015, was seen by 4.6 million people — the second biggest audience Colbert has had on the Late Show. Colbert’s premiere two weeks earlier pulled in 6.6 million viewers, according to the Nielsen company said.
[Featured Image by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images]